Volunteer is low in vision, high on life
They suffer from medical conditions but they are not letting their illnesses stop them from living life to the fullest. They even reach out to others stricken with the same ailments. The trio are receiving the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Award today.
Despite being 68, her 89-year-old mother still refuses to let her cook her own meals.
"She's afraid that I might burn myself in the process," retiree Ruth Lim told The New Paper with a laugh.
Miss Lim was involved in a road accident when she was 12.
"The year was 1959. When the taxi hit me, I was flung against a lamp post. I suffered a broken arm and my optic nerves were damaged, resulting in my low vision impairment," she said.
She was diagnosed with severe maculopathy in both eyes, where the macula - the part of the eye that provides the central vision - is damaged.
"When doctors broke the news, my mother cried. But I was still young, and thought I bo tai ji (Hokkien for no problem)," she said.
But never once did Miss Lim allow her disability to hamper her from leading an independent life.
Unable to attend a mainstream school, she was sent to the then Singapore School for The Blind to learn Braille .
At 16, she left for Kuala Lumpur to learn to use a switchboard "because there were no dummy switchboards in Singapore for training".
Miss Lim returned to Singapore and worked for over 30 years as a telephone operator - five years with New Zealand Insurance and 27 years with British Petroleum (BP).
"Mr Ken Waller, who was MD (managing director) of BP then, was looking to give a job to a blind person.
"His wife, who was volunteering at (then Singapore Association for the Blind), approached me," she said.
Till today, Miss Lim can still remember the 1,000 phone extensions at BP and whom they belonged to.
Despite having low vision, Miss Lim has travelled alone to Britain, France and Switzerland - sometimes for six months at a go.
"I was there to help babysit my nieces when they were much younger," she said.
She added she even went to Israel in 1997 with her church group.
Miss Lim now spends weekday mornings distributing newspapers at an MRT station.
Once a week, she cooks soup and serves at Dine in the Dark, a restaurant offering a blind dining experience for sighted people. It is organised by the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped (SAVH).
"I also translate hymns to Braille for blind worshippers," she said.
Sympathising with people who have lost their sight, either from an accident or a disease, Miss Lim now volunteers her help at SAVH by accompanying them to the supermarket.
She would even sometimes help them withdraw money from the ATM.
"At first, I would befriend them. Slowly, when I have gained their trust, I would share my story before helping them to cope with their daily lives.
"I even counsel them over the phone," she added.
Miss Lim knows she will go completely blind one day.
"Until that day, I will live my life to the best and the fullest," she said.
What is the SingHealth Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Award
The Singapore Health (SingHealth) Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Award honours resilient patients and caregivers who inspire healthcare staff with their positive attitudes and have touched the hearts with their exemplary show of courage, strength and resilience.
This is the seventh year the accolades, organised by SingHealth since 2010, are being given out.
A total of 23 patients, three clinical trial patient volunteers, 14 caregivers and five patient support groups will receive their awards from Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua.
They were nominated by healthcare professionals from SingHealth institutions, Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan, Mount Alvernia and Ren Ci hospitals, National Kidney Foundation, and the Singapore Eye Research Institute.